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My name is Tom Patton, and I am a student at the University of Oregon. Presently, I support Cisco’s Education Market Management team and work on a variety of U.S. and International Marketing projects. My first project was to analyze, organize and portray data from Cisco’s recent International Education Survey. The survey is a compilation of over 1100 interviews with education officials and IT decision-makers from 15 countries. The research explores key ideas regarding education and technology.

Working on this project caused me to reflect on my own experiences with technology and our education system. This blog is the first of a two-set series that portray my experience as a student, and my opinions of the potential benefits of further utilization of technology by students and teachers alike.

I am 19 years old, and a product of the millennial generation. I have been an active participant in the public education system for nearly a decade and a half. For the past 14 years, I have watched as technology has become more prominent in teaching and learning. In elementary school, I can recall scribbling down long division notes from the overhead projector and taking weekly trips to practice typing in the school’s computer lab filled with state-of-the art iMac G3s.  During my middle school years, friends and I would write and upload journalistic articles to the school-sponsored website. For three years in high school I took drafting and photography classes. These classes taught me to use AutoCAD and Photoshop programs: utilities that allowed me to design and build model houses and edit, enhance and manipulate digital photographs. These experiences, where I was immersed in technology, were by far the most memorable and engaging aspects of my 14 years in our formal education system.

As I have gotten older, technology in schools has progressed -- but very slowly. While over the last couple of years the pace has begun to hasten, the next five years will bring more change in education delivery than in the last twenty. Soon, there will be no middle ground between technology and education. Ultimately, technology will become education. Students will be able to attend office hours via online software, take video field trips to places thousands of miles away, and re-watch lectures online. These examples are only the beginning of the learning possibilities enabled by technology. This shift will bring about an unparalleled rise in student engagement, attendance, collaboration, communications, participation, and outcomes.

“If we teach today’s students as we did yesterday’s, we are robbing them of tomorrow.”- John Dewey 

Why does the education system need to evolve? Frankly--students are bored and frustrated with the current pace of technology’s use in the classroom. The education system has changed little to none since the turn of the century, and consequently it is less relevant to the everyday lives of kids. Yet, students are immersed in a world of technology from the time that they wake up in the morning, until the moment that they go to sleep at night.

The only period of time when they are not completely surrounded by technology is when they are sitting in the classroom.

If we want to see an increase in test scores and attendance rates, we need to find new ways to interact and engage with this new generation of students.

After analysis of Cisco’s International Education Survey, I am optimistic for the future. According to the survey:

85% of respondents feel that technology plays a large role in how students learn 

74% of respondents feel that technology plays a large role in improving student engagement and participation

67% of respondents feel that technology plays a large role in increasing collaboration

The good news is that educators universally agree that technology is and will continue to play a large role in shaping this and future generations of students. However, what we need is a faster pace of change. 

As students and the classroom evolve -- hopefully teachers, administrators, school board decision-makers and the community will unite to accelerate the pace of technology in teaching and learning.

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